#hcod, or: And people think I’m strange for not embracing ebooks

My Twitter account continues to earn its keep, as that’s how I’ve learned of the Harper-Collins – OverDrive outrage currently going on:

Next week, OverDrive will communicate a licensing change from a publisher that, while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached.

-via Atzblog, who also sums up the myriad problems thusly:

To be clear, this model eliminates almost all the major advantages of the item’s being digital, without restoring the permanence, durability, vendor-independence, technology-neutrality, portability, transferability, and ownership associated with the physical version.

I have some sympathy for Harper-Collins’ position (at least their point that ebooks don’t need to be replaced as physical books periodically do; and as someone on Twitter pointed out, at least they allow ebooks at all (1), but then again…not really. It’s up to them to develop a profit model for digital technologies without trying to artificially enforce the same rules of analog media. This is the music industry all over again. And the TV/movie industry. It was bad enough when the rule was 1 ebook = 1 physical book for circulation(2)!

Worse yet, 26 is the magic number for circulation, which

… was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.

-via Library Journal

A couple weeks ago I was hanging out in the WW2 section of Bird Library to pick up some books from my wish list. While I was perusing the shelves, I pulled out a book that had actually been published in the early 1940s. Instead of a copyright insert near the front of the book, there was a notice that the book had been produced in accordance with wartime regulations (smaller overall size, thinner pages). In the very front of the book was the old-school circulation data…as in, due dates stamped on the little card in the paper pocket affixed to the book. It was neat to try imagining the people who checked out this book (many times) in 1945 before the war ended, and then all the check-outs right after the war, and in the decade after that.

My point with that story is: how the hell did HC actually come up with 26 as an appropriate circulation number, because if a 66-year-old book, deliberately printed on thin paper, can still be in tip-top shape on my library’s shelves…. hooboy. Again from LJ,

If a lending period is two weeks, the 26 circulation limit is likely to equal roughly one year of use for a popular title. For a three-week lending period, that stretches to a year and a half.

How many physical books have to be replaced on a yearly basis? Serious question. I’m sure some do, but generally speaking? Is that a common lifespan for a library book?
1. I’m not really sure whether that’s better or worse than this hurlyburly.
2. Which was bad enough, let’s be honest. Another Twitter commenter pointed out acceptance of that practice as libraries not exactly having a good track record for defending patron use rights. But what options have libraries, generally, had? Like publishers, libraries have a/n (potentially) uncertain role in an increasingly digital world and each industry does what it can to keep up/preserve its place. For libraries–not exactly rolling in cash and influence– that may mean some compromise in usability and access to provide content in a relevant medium to their patrons. (And on the other hand, this is an example of libraries trying to adapt to stay relevant, whereas HC’s actions are a desperation act to keep increasingly obsolete/irrelevant practices.)

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